Prolapse happens when a tortoise poops out its guts, or its insides slide out its cloaca. That occurs when an internal or sex organ from inside the body is damaged or inflamed. This is frightening to see and Tortoises are very popular pets and a pet tortoise is usually an excellent pet to have around the home. However, they are not always the easiest pet to care for which is why it is important to find the right care for it. The right environment is an important part of caring for a tortoise, just like it is any other pet. A prolapse is when the tortoise’s intestines or other organs are protruding out of it’s shell. This is obviously a problem and can lead to other organs being damaged. Does it require surgery to correct it?
Tortoises need veterinary care to return their guts to the inside of their body. The tortoise is at serious risk of ripping, dragging, cutting, or damaging the exposed internal organ. They’ll also need medication to treat infection, surgery to remove damaged tissue, and ongoing monitoring.
If the problem lasts for too long, it can threaten your tortoise’s life. A vet will diagnose what caused the prolapse and what organs have slid free. They will treat the tortoise by cleaning, repositioning, and securing the guts where they belong. This will be followed up with medication and aftercare to ensure that the tortoise recovers.
What Causes Tortoise Prolapse?
Anything that puts excessive pressure on a tortoise’s sex organs, the colon, and the end of the digestive tract is a risk factor for prolapse. A prolapse looks like tortoise insides coming out or a. It’s a serious condition and rarely happens in tortoises. However, if it does, prolapse may be the result of:
Infection And Disease
An infection may cause your tortoise’s bowels or cloaca to become inflamed. Depending on the type of infection and its location, it may also weaken the muscle structure around your tortoise’s organs. A combination of the two may lead to the tortoise pooping out insides.
This is usually a result of excessive diarrhea and intestinal parasites. However, it can also be brought on by bladder stones and hypocalcemia. The pressure on your tortoise’s guts will be too much.
If a tortoise has a serious fall, is attacked by a pet or predator, or gets into a brutal fight with another tortoise, it may be jarred heavily.
This can lead to prolapse due to injuries to its shell, cloaca, and even internal damage. Getting stuck on its back or being flipped over suddenly can also stir up the tortoise, potentially leading to prolapse.
Eating Bad Items
Tortoises should not eat stones, gravel, pebbles, or other dangerous and inedible items. Otherwise, these can get caught or build up within the digestive tract. As the tortoise tries and falls to pass them, they may eventually be pooped out by taking the tortoise’s guts with them.
Mating Ended Too Soon
If a tortoise is separated forcefully during copulation, it can also lead to prolapse of the sex organs. Male tortoises have a hook at the end of their penis, which attaches to the inside of the female. As long as the mating process is allowed to naturally conclude, it will unhook, and the two can separate harmlessly.
If the breeding tortoises are forcefully pulled apart, this will put a great deal of pressure and strain on both of their sex organs. That can lead to their guts coming out.
In female tortoises, if an egg gets stuck in the reproductive tract or takes longer to pass through it, it can cause prolapse. This is an unavoidable cause and can happen to any female tortoise, captive or wild.
The best way to lessen the chances is to take all measures possible to avoid egg binding. Contact a vet if you suspect your tortoise is having trouble passing eggs.
Signs Of Tortoise Prolapse
Prolapse is not easy to miss in tortoises. You’ll notice:
The main sign will be a sex organ or internal organ protruding from the vent (or cloaca, or butt). It usually looks like a pink or red mass. The redness occurs when there is excessive inflammation.
A strained tortoise is also a sign of prolapse. Check its vent for prolapse if you see your tortoise pulling its head into its shell gradually with tremor.
Dehydration and Lack of Hunger
Your tortoise might display symptoms of dehydration and lack of appetite during prolapse. This is a response to the feelings of sickness the tortoise will experience. It will also mean the tortoise’s guts are too poorly rearranged to eat or drink properly.
Lack of Poop
Prolapse is painful and complicates the entire digestive tract. As such, a tortoise that is prolapsing may have trouble excreting feces.
However, not all organs pushed out of a tortoise’s body are exposed because of prolapse. Some male tortoises deliberately push out their penises for display when they are bored. Male tortoises have large and dark-pink sex organs, usually taking up half of their length.
However, a penis pushed out for display should retract automatically after some time. If it’s a prolapsed penis, it will be red and swollen, and your tortoise will have a hard time retracting it.
Types of Prolapse in Tortoises
There are 2 main types of prolapse in chelonian reptiles, such as tortoises. These include:
The cloaca is an essential body part of reptile biology because it provides shelter to sex organs. It also absorbs moisture from water and digested food to keep the tortoise hydrated. Sadly, a common type of prolapse in tortoises is cloacal prolapse.
In most tortoises, the prolapsed cloaca looks like a large, black cylindrical tube with a multi-lobed or flattened end. In other words, it’s hard to miss.
A prolapsed sex organ should always go back in on its own. If your tortoise doesn’t retract it within a few minutes, though, there’s likely a problem that requires immediate veterinary assistance.
A prolapsed cloaca is caused by an excessive amount of pressure and strain. That’s especially true of the kind that results from:
Dehydration and constipation (caused by inappropriate humidity levels and lack of drinking water)Improper husbandry (lighting, temperature, enclosure size, etc.)Improper gastrointestinal tract function (caused by lack of calcium)Metabolic bone disease, Tumors, or infections / Trauma from probing (sex determination)
According to the International Journal of Science, Environment, and Technology, prolapse in reptiles can originate from the distal gastrointestinal tract. This is known as intestinal prolapse, also called bowel prolapse. It is the most common type that afflicts pet tortoises.
Intestinal prolapse usually occurs when the tortoise has a blockage in its intestines. This is known as impaction. It’s usually caused by the tortoise purposefully or accidentally swallowing the substrate inside its enclosure. Undigested substrate will block the gastrointestinal tract.
In some cases, the blockage may be caused by severe constipation. For tortoises, the more pressure they push to excrete, the more likely they are to push out a portion of their bowel, causing a prolapse.
Preventing this is a straightforward affair. You first need to change your tortoise’s substrate to something it can easily digest and pass. Moss and straw are easily digestible and rarely cause blockages in the intestines.
Will Prolapse Go Away On Its Own?
If one of your tortoise’s sex organs has prolapsed, it should go back on its own within a few minutes. However, internal organs won’t retract on their own and need medical intervention.
If your tortoise’s prolapsed organs do not retract within a few minutes, go to the vets. If you leave the guts out for too long without taking action, they can threaten your pet’s life.
Do Vets See Tortoises With Prolapse?
A specialist reptile vet is well-versed in all health issues pertaining to tortoises. The expert will be able to diagnose and treat a prolapse that lasts more than a few minutes. The sooner you get your animal to the vet, the better the chances of this treatment working.
According to the Indian Journal of Veterinary Surgery, internal tissues tend to rot during prolapse. Every minute that goes by damages them further.
Diagnosing Prolapse in Tortoises
When you head over to a reptile veterinarian, the expert will first diagnose the prolapse by conducting a complete physical exam. The main aim is to determine the type of material protruding from your pet’s vent. It could be 1-4 different organs protruding.
Intestinal prolapse: The vet will look for muscles with fecal matter.Bladder has prolapsed: Your vet will look for a thin-walled organ filled with fluid.Protruding penis: The vet would look for a muscular, solid tissue mass with a central groove.Uterine prolapse: The vet will look for the oviduct with no fecal material.
Your vet might also recommend blood work to determine whether your tortoise is deficient in minerals or vitamins. This will give the expert an idea of how to proceed with the treatment for prolapse.
How to Treat a Tortoise Prolapse
During your wait for the vet appointment, you should give your tortoise a sugar-water bath at home to relieve the swelling. This will make the tortoise more comfortable. In some cases, a sugar-water bath can even treat minor prolapses, but not always.
You should still consult a reptile vet to get to the bottom of things. Waiting too long before going to a vet can drastically traumatize organs and require invasive surgery.
At your appointment, the vet will begin treatment to return your tortoise’s intestines or sex organs to their proper place. At times, surgical removal of damaged tissues is required, especially if your tortoise has been injured. After diagnosis, the vet may use the following surgical procedure:
Administer pain medication and sedate the animalTreat tissue to decrease swellingClean and take out the rotten tissueReposition the protruding organs back in their correct positionsUse a purse-string suture on the vent to prevent prolapse from reoccurringAdminister a course of antibiotics for faster healing
If your vet suspects constipation or egg binding, the professional will take an X-ray. If a parasitic infection, dietary imbalance, or other diseases are suspected, the vet will take a stool or blood sample for testing.
If there are no complications with the treatment process, your tortoise should recover without any problem. However, you should monitor the recurrence of prolapse after treatment, just in case. Don’t be shocked if your vet asks you to leave your pet at their clinic for several days (maybe even a week) for observation. This is normal.
What To Do If Your Tortoise Has a Prolapse
After you first notice a prolapse your tortoise might have, observe it to see if it goes away. If it doesn’t go away by itself, you should book a vet appointment immediately. Most prolapses require minor surgery for proper treatment and reduced chances of recurrence.
In most cases of prolapse, veterinary treatment is necessary to remove the damaged tissue, reposition the organs, and prevent prolapse recurrence. However, there are tortoise prolapse home treatments that you can implement while you wait for a vet’s appointment. These steps can also minimize discomfort and damage.
Quarantine Your Tortoise
If your tortoise has a prolapse, separate it from other tortoises or pets. You should never keep a prolapsed tortoise with other creatures. Instead, place it in an isolated area.
This will prevent further damage to the organs and tissues. Other tortoises might bite the prolapse if they see the swelling and coloration, so quarantining will prevent injuries. This also makes it easier for you to clean the prolapse.
Ensure that the isolated area does not have any items that may scratch or puncture the prolapse. Line your tortoise’s temporary home with newspaper or soft tissue paper to prevent damage to the prolapse.
Clean the Area
After quarantining your tortoise, you need to clean the affected area (the prolapse). Flush the prolapse with clean and cool water. This will help get rid of germs and toxins and reduce the swelling.
In some cases, the prolapse retracts on its own once the swelling goes away. If you’re using running water, ensure that it is just a trickle. A strong stream of running water can damage the prolapse further.
Once the prolapse is clean, let it air dry. Don’t use a towel to dry, as you might cause further damage.
Reduce the Swelling
After thoroughly cleaning your tortoise’s prolapse, minimize the swelling further by using concentrated sugar content, like honey or granulated sugar. Leave it on the prolapse for 30 minutes or before rinsing it off thoroughly.
You can also try lubricating the prolapsed area using a lubricant. You’re your vet’s appointment, tape up the affected area or cover it with gauze to keep it clean.
In some conditions, your vet will recommend topical medication that you can administer to help the prolapse retract.